2025 Oscars: Best Director Predictions

Nominations voting is from January 8-12, 2025, with official Oscar nominations announced January 17, 2025. Final voting is February 11-18, 2025. And finally, the 97th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 2 and air live on ABC at 7:00 p.m. ET/ 4:00 p.m. PT. We update our picks through awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2025 Oscar predictions.

The State of the Race

Despite the last two Best Director winners being Christopher Nolan and the filmmaker duo Daniels, for box office hits “Oppenheimer” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” respectively, commerciality is not as much a factor in determining what filmmakers are bound for an Oscar nomination as it is for what films are.

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So something like “Kinds of Kindness” may be too niche and unconventional to win over the full Academy voting for a Best Picture nomination, but you should never count Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos out of the Best Director conversation these days. Part of that is because this category is where we have seen the biggest changes since the Academy spent a decade welcoming filmmakers from across the globe, despite the Oscars still being primarily focused on awarding American film. “Another Round” director Thomas Vinterberg and “Cold War” director Paweł Pawlikowski are two recent examples of filmmakers that received a Best Director nomination without their films scoring a Best Picture nomination, and the biggest contributing factor to that recognition was the support they received from Directors branch members overseas.

But also, Vinterberg and Pawlikowski helmed their country’s picks for Best International Feature Film. Meanwhile, 2024 Cannes Film Festival breakouts Payal Kapadia, an Indian director who made Grand Prix winner “All We Imagine As Light,” and Mohammad Rasoulof, an Iranian director who made Special Prize winner “The Seed of the Sacred Fig,” are not likely to be chosen to represent their countries in the Best International Feature Film for their political content.

However, “Anatomy of a Fall” director Justine Triet, a French filmmaker, was also ineligible for Best International Feature Film after Cannes last year, and the backlash over that decision partially contributed to her ending up a Best Director nominee. Both her film and Kapadia and Rasoulof’s films are under Neon for U.S. distribution, so there is an existing gameplan at the studio for that kind of shortcoming. But Neon’s main priority will likely be Sean Baker, who won the Palme d’Or for his latest film “Anora,” and has been on the Oscars bubble for his past two films, “The Florida Project” and “Red Rocket.”

Now more than ever, the annual conversation around Best Director is about whether or not a filmmaker that has been consistent, yet consistently passed over, will finally receive their first Oscar for directing. That narrative fits Lanthimos, it fits Baker, it fits Jacques Audiard, whose musical “Emilia Pérez” was another big hit at Cannes, and it fits the known auteurs that were able to top the box office in this tough year for theatrical releases, like “Challengers” director Luca Guadagnino, “Civil War” director Alex Garland, and most of all, “Dune: Part Two” director Denis Villeneuve.

While there are some newcomers waiting in the wings, like Oscar-nominated documentarians Joshua Oppenheimer and RaMell Ross, who are set to make their narrative debuts this year with “The End” and “The Nickel Boys,” respectively, there are too many directors already in the Oscars’ orbit to really factor them in as frontrunners. For instance, 86-year-old film icon Ridley Scott has never won an Oscar, and is returning with the long-awaited sequel to his 2000 film “Gladiator,” which won Best Picture. Todd Phillips, who received a Best Director nomination in 2020, is back with an even more ambitious sequel to that film, “Joker: Folie à Deux.” And Oscar winners Edward Berger and Steve McQueen are in there too, with new films “Conclave” and “Blitz,” respectively, though their wins came in different categories, so one could argue they’re back with a vengeance.

Plus, with a film like “Megalopolis,” where it feels like anything good or bad that someone could say about it is true, there just may be enough respect for Francis Ford Coppola’s vision and perseverance to lead the Best Director race one more time.

Potential nominees are listed in alphabetical order; no film will be deemed a frontrunner until we have seen it.

Luca Guadagnino (“Challengers”)
Alex Garland (“Civil War”)
Yorgos Lanthimos (“Kinds of Kindness”)
George Miller (“Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga”)
Denis Villenueve (“Dune: Part Two”)

Andrea Arnold (“Bird”)
Jacques Audiard (“Emilia Pérez”)
Sean Baker (“Anora”)
Edward Berger (“Conclave”)
Francis Ford Coppola (“Megalopolis”)
Jesse Eisenberg (“A Real Pain”)
Marielle Heller (“Nightbitch”)
Payal Kapadia (“All We Imagine As Light”)
Greg Kwedar (“Sing Sing”)
Steve McQueen (“Blitz”)
Joshua Oppenheimer (“The End”)
Todd Phillips (“Joker: Folie à Deux”)
Mohammad Rasoulof (“The Seed of the Sacred Fig”)
RaMell Ross (“The Nickel Boys”)
Ridley Scott (“Gladiator II”)

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